Intellectual Idiocy

Matt McCaffrey over at MisesEconomicBlog makes note of a common trait among our intellectuals:

…“For [a revolutionary] atmosphere to develop it is necessary that there be groups to whose interest it is to work up and organize resentment, to nurse it, to voice it and to lead it.” Enter the intellectuals.

The intellectuals are a paradoxical product of the market economy, because “unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.” Like Hayek, Schumpeter described intellectuals broadly as “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word.” More narrowly, “one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” That is, intellectuals do not participate in the market (at least not in the areas they write about), and do not generally rely on satisfying consumers to earn a living. Add to this their naturally critical attitude—which Schumpeter argues is the product of the essential rationality of the market economy—and it is easy to see why intellectuals would be hostile to the market.

In other words, intellectuals are often out of place in entrepreneurial societies. The growth of the intellectual class is not a response to consumer demand, but to the expansion of higher education. Passing through the higher education system does not necessarily confer valuable skills, but it often does convince graduates that work in the market is beneath them…

That is all very true, but I’d add something else to it: our intellectuals are, for the very largest part, amazingly un-intellectual. For people who pride themselves on an alleged ability to think, they don’t think about much – and this is mostly because they don’t know very much. Marx wrote a book about what the laboring class wants when he had never done a lick of laboring work in his life. Lenin wrote a book about the development of capitalism in Russia when he had never entered the marketplace, at all.  What on earth could such men think they were writing about?  It’d be like me trying to write an in depth, philosophical work about surgery. I might have some interesting comments to make on the subject, but to take me for an expert in it, no matter how much I claim to have thought about it, would be absurd. Unless you get out there and see how its done, you’ll never really know.

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The Art of Redundancy

If it is one thing the Democrats are very good at, and one thing that their legions of progressive sycophants depend on – it’s redundancy. The Democrats bleat on endlessly over contrived issues and the repetition thereof results in an allegiance amongst their base that rivals that of the most famous Tyrants. It’s at a level now that I have never seen before and the most recent Paul Krugman article is a great example. You may remember Paul Krugman – the Nobel prize winning progressive economist who decries the inequities of a capitalist society and whom recently accepted a six figure position with an institution of higher progressive learning for offering his valued opinion on matters of import, yet not required to lower himself to the masses and actually teaching in the classroom. This latest Krugman article perpetuates the infrastructure redundancy that progressives seemingly fall back on every time they need an economic issue to distract voters with. You may remember the Obama proclamation of 2008 wherein the great orator decreed:

“We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”

Subsequently, in March of 2009, the single greatest stimulus package was passed and funds were given to the administration to use where they sought fit. Strangely, the infrastructure still seems to be a problem, and an issue of which progressive elites like Krugman feel that they can foam up the base with one more time:

“In prosperous times, public spending on roads, bridges and so on competes with the private sector for resources. Since 2008, however, our economy has been awash in unemployed workers (especially construction workers) and capital with no place to go (which is why government borrowing costs are at historic lows). Putting those idle resources to work building useful stuff should have been a no-brainer.”

Now, did Krugman forget his Messiah’s 2008 proclamation and subsequent spending spree, or is he being purposely deceitful? I will leave that to your own imagination, but you can all easily imagine is what Krugman’s answer is to this on-going infrastructure problem – more taxes of course:

“It’s hard to think of any good reason why taxes on gasoline should be so low, and it’s easy to think of reasons, ranging from climate concerns to reducing dependence on the Middle East, why gas should cost more. So there’s a very strong case for raising the gas tax “

The progressive Democrats have yet to find a problem, real or contrived, that can’t be resolved by raising taxes. The problem for them is that these issuess are never resolved despite how many taxes they raise, and fortunately for those of us in “realville”, the majority of voters are starting to come to that realization. One thing is for certain though, you can expect this issue, , and the other redundant issues of climate change, and the patently absurd “war on women” to be part and parcel to the Democrats 2014 and 2016 agenda.

Progressives Were For Religious Freedom Before They Were Against It!

Of course, this comes as no surprise – the flip flopping of Progressive (pRegressive) politicians who will say anything for political expediency. pRegressive politicians and their Praetorian Guard in the mainstream media have their panties in a bunch over the correct Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision. Driven by either agenda or ignorance, they don’t even remember that at one time they were all champions of the same religious freedom they are now against.

The SCOTUS ruling is NOT about contraception. Instead, it affirms a law dating back to 1993 – The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This law, “to protect the free exercise of religion,” according to the U.S. Senate. Specifically, the purpose of the law is “to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is burdened by government.” That is the crux of the Hobby Lobby claim. Congress passed this law almost unanimously.

The RFRA was introduced following an unpopular SCOTUS decision curbing the religious freedom of Native Americans to use peyote. Congressman Charles Schumer introduced the bill in March 1993, a time when liberals were strongly in favor of religious freedom. The bill was cosponsored by many of the same pRegressives screeching the loudest about the SCOTUS decision, including Rosa DeLorio, Luis Gutierrez, Nancy Pelosi, and Maxine Waters. The Senate passed this bill by a vote of 97-3.

I am sure you will recognize some of the names:
Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. HATCH, Mr. BENNETT, Mr. BOND, Mr. BRADLEY, Mr. BUMPERS, Mr. CAMPBELL, Mr. DANFORTH, Mr. DASCHLE, Mr. EXON, Mr. FEINGOLD, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. HARKIN, Mr. HATFIELD, Mr. JEFFORDS, Mrs. KASSEBAUM, Mr. KERRY, Mr. LAUTENBERG, Mr. LEVIN, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. METZEN- BAUM, Ms. MIKULSKI, Ms. MOSELEY-BRAUN, Mr. MOYNIHAN, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. PACKWOOD, Mr. PELL, Mr. REID, Mr. RIEGLE, Mr. SPECTER, Mr. WELLSTONE, Mr. WOFFORD, Mr. KOHL, Mr. SARBANES, Mrs. BOXER, Mr. DECONCINI, Mr. SASSER, Mr. INOUYE, Mr. BROWN, Mr. COHEN, Mr. KEMPTHORNE, Mr. PRYOR, Mr. KERREY, Mr. MCCONNELL, Mr. DODD, Mr. DURENBERGER, Mr. AKAKA, Mr. GLENN, Mr. GREGG, Mr. NICKLES, Mr. COATS, Mr. LUGAR, Mr. BREAUX, Mr. DORGAN, Mr. ROCKEFELLER, and Mr. MACK) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

What a difference a new pResident and a new agenda make (despite the fact that the Constitution has remained the same)! Senate Weasel Harry Reid was in favor of religious freedom before he was against it. Voting FOR the RFRA in 1993, he is now indignant that the SCOTUS upheld the same law he voted for. Ditto for Nancy Pelosi, who is fussing about “a gross violation of workers’ religious rights.” What religious rights are being violated (must be the fact that progressivism and intrusive government is a religion to these people)? Are the Hobby Lobby employees members of a religion with a commandment, “Thou shall be provided abortifacients paid for by someone else”? Or is it the employer whose religious rights are being violated – “Thou shalt not kill” – by making him or her purchase these drugs for the employees?

Hillary Clinton also found the Hobby Lobby decision “deeply disturbing.” How ironic that her co-president husband, in November 1993, signed the RFRA into law, and when upheld 20 years later, she finds it “disturbing”. At the signing, then-President Bill Clinton remarked, “We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties, religious freedom.” He also noted that “our laws and institutions should not impede or hinder but rather should protect and preserve fundamental religious liberties.” Commenting on the Founders, he observed that they “knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp.”

Protecting “religious freedom” was politically expedient 20 years ago. But now the dumbed down talking point is the “war on women”. It serves its purposes for speeches and fund-raising, especially when you have a captive audience of mindless drones. The RFRA passed almost unanimously, while obamacare barely passed along party lines in the House and was rammed through the Senate using budget procedural methods rather than proper voting procedures.

Don’t expect the Praetorian Guard (media) to acknowledge the flip-flops by our pRegressive politicians – after all it is an election year. The must mindlessly continue the propaganda.

In Congress, July 4th, 1776

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…

…We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Violation of Common Sense

In a 5-4 decision, the SC has struck another blow to the ACA stating that a requirement of private employers to pay for contraceptive coverage is a violation of their religious freedom and conscience as written into the First Amendment. A common sense decision that everyone should understand but evidently 4 SC justices and a multitude of statist progressive don’t. Hobby Lobby, and the many other private companies that objected to this mandate, can not and do not force any woman to work for them, so when a woman does independently and of free will choose to work for that company, how in the world does she have the right to dictate to them what insurance coverage they should offer? That is absurd.

In another ruling that will rock the progressive world, and in another 5-4 decision, in-home health care workers will not be required to pay union dues which served to strengthen the collective bargaining position of the public unions in Illinois. This again is a victory for individuality and freedom of expression and a blow against big union corruption and political graft.

This has been a bad year so far for statism and progressivism and in turn a great year for individual liberty and conservatism. Let’s keep the momentum going.

World War One

On June 28th it will be 100 years since the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – Franz Ferdinand – was assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering the First World War. While I have over my life studied much history of war, I believe I have spent more time on the First World War than any other.  This is because there is something horrendously tragic about the whole thing – thought not, in my view, for the reasons most often given.

For most people with a cursory knowledge of the war, it is just a bloody, miserable waste.  Four years in the trenches with men being sent senselessly to their deaths by insensate commanders.  There is a bit of truth in that, but it does really get to the bottom of the matter.  In my view, our civilization committed mass suicide during that war – over a long period of time prior to the war, starting really in the 16th century but getting rolling in the 18th, we had stripped ourselves of that patina of Judeo-Christian morality which prevented us from doing really horrible things, while at the same time a false sense of security was created by the rising, capitalist prosperity (for some, not all).  We thought in 1914 that we had thrown off the shackles of a dead past and were moving inexorably into a bright future.  What we found is that we had lost our moral compass and were descending into a nightmare.

The men of 1914 went off to war singing.  In all the belligerent powers there was a sense of destiny and awe – we were going to have this thing out and then build a new world of peace, justice and prosperity. Listen to Rupert Brooke:

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Brooke ended up dying in the war – sadly, not in a heroic battle, but of blood poisoning.  But that doesn’t take away from the reality of what he did, and what he believed in. In his poems we see the whole spirit which animated all those caught up in the cataclysm. A few years on, Siegfried Sassoon wrote this:

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

That is quite a change.  One can put it down to the sheer horror of war, but it is more than that, it is the betrayal of an ideal.  It was an ideal of patriotism, of manly courage, of the surety that your nation was glorious and deserved dominion unchecked because of the good that was in it. That it proved a false ideal doesn’t make the betrayal of it any less an affront.  Indeed, it might make it worse.  Marching off to war the men thought one thing and found something very different.  What the found was that ideal was non-existent.  What they didn’t know – and most people still have discovered to this day – is that the ideal was wrong because it wasn’t founded upon a firm understanding of God.  To be manly and patriotic is a grand thing, as long as one firmly recognizes that God is Sovereign.  Solzhenitsyn said that the problem of the 20th century was that Man had forgotten about God.  Indeed – and in the searing abyss of World War One, men found that as they had not God, they had nothing and all the patriotism and manly courage in the world could not redeem the fact that 9 million men had died in battle, and victory had been bought so dear by the victors that it was indistinguishable from defeat.  The real pity of it was that people did not, on the whole, turn back to God.

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Is the Solution to Obama a Parliamentary Government?

Part of the genius of our Founders was the really clever way they blended three forms of government into one.  We are part monarchy, part Republic, part democracy.  The Democracy, of course, is the House – one man, one vote and everyone counts.  The Republic is the Senate – each constituent State has equal representation regardless of population.  The monarch, of course, is the President.  Most people don’t fully realize this aspect of our government – but the President is as much a king as anyone who ever sat a throne except for one thing:  his term of office is limited by years rather than by his life span.

It is interesting that in Churchill’s history of the First World War – The World Crisis – the description he gives of the American government observes that in practical terms, in 1917, the American President held more power than any other single individual on earth.  That was written before the enormities of Stalin and Hitler, but by Churchill’s lights at the time, it was correct – even though Russia had a Czar and Germany and Austria-Hungary had Kaisers. The President is at once party leader, head of State and head of government.  A vigorous person in that office is able to impose his will upon Congress and the people and move policy in the way he desires, even without violating the Constitution. And the President can pretty much get America into war any time he wants by simple fact of moving military forces under his own authority anywhere he wants, and letting the resultant events almost compel a declaration from Congress.

I believe that our Founders set this up quite deliberately – that they wanted a system which embodies what they perceived as best in all forms of government, but with each side checked vigorously by other Powers in government. And it worked very well – we had our leader who could act decisively in an emergency while also ensuring that final power to actual change things was in the hands of elected officials, with a final referee, as it were, in the Supreme Court to ensure that neither President nor Congress strayed beyond the bounds of settled law.  There was, however, a weakness in the system and it is a weakness which cannot be avoided in any system: it is dependent for its operation upon the actions of human beings.  Human beings are Fallen and thus get things wrong; usually very often. But we had a great bit of good luck at our start in that our first President – our first King, as it were – was George Washington.  Here was a man who genuinely held himself to be no more than the first magistrate of a free people and while he could have stayed in office until he died – and, indeed, at one point could have gotten himself crowned as actual king – he voluntarily gave up office and retired to private life.

This example of humble Presidential leadership stood us in good stead for quite a long time, but by the time Theodore Roosevelt took office, it started to wear thin as he and most of his successors thought of themselves not as agents of an impartial government, but men of destiny who had to place their indelible imprint upon the nation and the world.  From Theodore Roosevelt to Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama is a pretty straight line, only slightly pushed off course by Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan, who did have a much more Washingtonian ideal of the Presidency than most over the past century.  It was Theodore Roosevelt who first denied the limitations of power in the Founder’s system – saying that unless something was specifically forbidden a President in the Constitution, the President was free to do it.  This was a watershed event – and quite in contrast to Roosevelt’s recent predecessor Grover Cleveland who routinely vetoed legislation for the sole reason that he found no warrant for the law in the powers granted to the government by the Constitution. Now we’ve finished the task and in Obama, we’ve got a President who is essentially claiming that unless someone can actually stop him, he can do as he wishes – the pen and the phone are mightier than the Constitution.  And, so, how do we fix this?

The Founders thought they had provided sufficient safe guards against such things by inserting into the Constitution the power of the legislative to impeach the executive. It was thought that out of a jealous desire to preserve legislative power that the legislature would vigorously oppose the executive and be willing to use the extreme sanction of impeachment when a President started abusing his office.  It didn’t really work out like that – the first impeachment of Andrew Johnson was the merest bit of partisan hackery where the legislative majority simply  wanted to do away with an uncooperative executive; the second against Nixon was only successful because Nixon’s own allies abandoned him; the third against Clinton failed because Clinton’s allies refused to abandon him even though it was clear that Clinton has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”. And that was that – once it became clear that partisanship would rule the day in impeachment, then it became a requirement that the Senate have 67 firmly committed members to vote for conviction before impeachment would even be considered and given the partisan nature of things, this means a Senate wherein at least 67 members are from the opposition party.  You can look back in time and see how few and far between are the times when any party controlled 67% of the Senate seats.  This means that impeachment is functionally impossible. We need another means of controlling the executive.

We could decide to lower the bar on impeachment convictions, and that might be a sorta-good way to go.  Better than no restrictions, after all.  But if we made it so that only 55 Senators had to vote to convict, then we would see more partisan hackery in the matter of impeachment where the Senate majority just wants to get rid of a President who isn’t cooperative.  That is fatal to good government quite as much as an out of control executive.  Maybe, and this is just me starting to think it over, we should remove the President from day to day executive authority?  That would be to interpose a Prime Minister between the President and the operations of government on a day to day basis.  A Parliamentary regime.

We’d still want a Commander in Chief for war time and other such emergencies, but we also very much want a President who can’t use his pen and phone to alter law.  So, we amend the Constitution to command the President to nominate as Prime Minister the leader of the party holding the most seats in the House of Representatives, and that person – upon confirmation via the Senate – nominates the heads of the government Departments and monitors and controls their actions subject to approval or overthrow by the House. We would make it so that the President signs laws into approval, or vetoes them as he desires.  He would still command the armed forces, negotiate treaties (with the advice and consent of the Senate as now) and could recommend legislation – but in what the Departments would do, he would have no say. And the people who do have the say in the actions of the Department, they can be removed by a simple majority vote in the House – and if the people don’t like how government is going, then every two years they get a chance to change the composition of the House, and thus get a government hopefully more to their liking.

Yes, this could lead to a situation – as it does in France, from time to time – where the President and the Prime Minister are of different parties.  Would it really be that bad if they had to work together?  The PM can want this, that or the other thing, but he’s not going to get it into law unless the President agrees – ditto on the President’s side. Other changes can also be made (I’ve long been in favor of limit the President to one, six-year term, eg), but we do have to think seriously about how we are going to ensure the means of cutting off a President – like Obama, but also like Johnson and FDR and Wilson in the past – who doesn’t care what the law says and is just going to do what he wants, defying anyone to stop him, secure in the knowledge that his opponents won’t have those 67 Senators necessary to convict on impeachment. At any rate, if anyone has a better idea, I’m all ears.